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Tackling Specific Problems In Maternity Services

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Most women are satisfied with maternity care in Wales with services generally meeting an appropriate standard, says a report published today by the Auditor General.

But the report also highlights some specific problems including the way that labour is managed in some trusts and dissatisfaction with support for infant feeding.

Today's report includes a survey of new mothers. Although many women questioned were satisfied with their experience, a significant minority felt they were not always treated with dignity and respect or kindness and understanding.

Antenatal care generally meets good practice guidelines, but some women do not receive enough check-ups and there is generally low attendance at antenatal classes. The report also shows that women in some trusts tend to receive too many scans whilst trusts are not yet offering the most up-to-date screening for Down's syndrome.

The way labour is managed in some NHS trusts gives rise to concern. A significant minority of women felt they were left alone and worried during or shortly after labour and some trusts could do more to prevent unnecessary Caesarean sections. Women were least satisfied with the postnatal phase of care, with over a third of women being unhappy with the quality of support they received for infant feeding.

The report calls for the Assembly Government to develop an overall strategy for maternity services in Wales. This would help the planning of maternity services which is currently being undermined by the lack of a clear vision and poor information about the cost and quality of care.

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The strategy would also provide a comprehensive source of guidance aimed at removing some of the specific problems with maternity services, such as the failure to meet recommended staffing levels in some trusts and the low level of staff training in many trusts.

The report called Maternity Services makes a number of recommendations for improvement, by calling on:

* the Assembly Government to develop a comprehensive strategy for maternity services, highlighting good practice and offering guidance on local service planning

* new local health boards to assess staffing requirements for delivering safe and high quality services

* local health boards to make sure that all maternity staff receive the necessary clinical training

* local health boards to review their training programmes to ensure that there is sufficient focus on the principles of respect, well being, choice and dignity

* the Assembly Government, in partnership with the NHS in Wales and other key stakeholders, to agree a standard set of data that is routinely collected, monitored and used to support service improvement.

Auditor General for Wales, Jeremy Colman, said today: "Women in Wales should be able to expect the best level of care when having a baby. Whether their pregnancy, labour and postnatal phase is straightforward or whether they need special care and attention, they put their trust in the NHS. I hope the Assembly Government and NHS will take on the recommendations outlined in my report and will implement changes where necessary, to improve the situation."